Satellite Fellows 2024

Jessica Liu


A filmmaker who blends comedy, longing, & genre

Shelby Ballenger

Jessica Liu is a filmmaker who highlights hidden desires through a playful lens. She was raised between Shanghai and San Francisco. Her films have been selected at Academy qualifying film festivals - Cinequest, San Francisco Independent Film Festival, Dances with Films, and streaming on Amazon Prime and Oscar supported platform OTV. Her Asian American romantic comedy feature script “Ming & the Banana'' is a Sundance Development Track second round selection. She was selected for the inaugural 2024 Rising Directors Fellowship with Alliance of Women Directors, a Gold House Futures Creator, a 2023 Frieze LA Fellow with Endeavor Content, Ghetto Film School, Fifth Season. She was highlighted as a Comedic Creator to follow in Whohaha ‘s 2022 Comedy Call Out. She was a 2022 Women in Film mentor.

Ming & the Banana

Feature Film in Development

Shelby Ballenger

LOGLINE: Shirley is a banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) - she hates boba, fears MSG, and only dates white guys - until she gets entangled with Ming, a new immigrant Asian man who challenges her to confront her own issues.

Ming & the Banana is a romantic comedy that flips the script on the genre by exploring a flawed Asian American female character and her dating biases. The classic tale of enemies to lovers unfolds in a comedic yet vulnerable way with Ming as an unexpected love interest. My goal is both to crack open taboo subject matters of dating hierarchies and preferences in the Western world, as well as make a platform for Asian immigrant characters to be seen in the light of a love interest. I believe that love and desire are the core of humanizing characters from different backgrounds. Reconnecting with one’s heritage while melding cultures as a child of immigrants is something that resurfaces in our personal lives - in this case dating and choosing our partners. I explore this notion as a personal story. The journey Shirley goes on to face internalized racism and form a connection with “Nai Nai’ touches upon my own journey as someone raised between two worlds. It is a personal love letter to my upbringing and to my journey to build what it means to be Asian American to me.

This project is part of Alliance of Women Directors’ Rising Directors Fellowship as highlighted in Variety. Supporting contributions to Ming & the Banana are tax deductible to the extent of the law.


satire, longing between worlds, comedic surrealism

Shelby Ballenger

Better Life (short film) satire, grounded sci-fi

LOGLINE: When a new medical procedure promises to transform slackers into overachievers, an aging, blue collar Chinese father sees this as his last chance to achieve the American Dream - through his unemployed adult daughter.

Better Life is a proof of concept short film that will provide the extremely fun, stylized tone of the feature film while still standing alone as its own piece. The story is a heart-felt one with the father-daughter relationship as the driving force behind this tale of morality. I’m interested in questioning the ‘model minority’ myth within the Asian American community and larger minority groups which can lead to hyper competitiveness focused on the generational divide between parent and child. When is there ever ‘enough’ when we’re dealing with financial gain and success? What is the definition of success? Exploring the influence of pressures in a hyper-capitalistic society driven by material gain, our protagonists face losing their family bonds and sense of self to chase an ever-rising bar of living a ‘better life’.

Jessica’s film "Prom Time!" was awarded the"Women's Empowerment" Award at the Anaheim Film Festival and hand-selected by Emmy winner Kate Hackett for mentorship at the Cinema Femme 2021 showcase. She is developing her debut feature film and an anthology film with 7 female directors who met through Alliance of Women Directors. The City of Los Angeles selected her film “OrangeDreams'' to represent the Girls Play LA campaign - to encourage girls to participate in recreational activities. Other festival selections include San Diego Asian Film Festival, Pittsburg Shorts Film Festival, Newfilmmakers Los Angeles, respected genre-festival, Another Hole in the Head, and MovieMaker magazine feature for her film “tomorrow”, which explores modern dating with a supernatural twist. Commercially, her work has been showcased by Red Bull Music Academy, and has worked with clients such as Sony, Red Bull, Netflix, STARZ. She has directed commercials for Bay Area nonprofits that focus on uplifting underserved communities. As a graduate of UCSC with double majors in Film and Feminist Studies - Culture, Power, and Representation, she strives to honor authentic perspectives through fresh and exciting storytelling.